Tribute to Jack Sapsworth, MBE, DL (1941-2017)

24 February 2017

On Saturday 18 February, staff at Keech Hospice Care were saddened to learn of the death of one of the hospice’s much-loved founder members, Jack Sapsworth, MBE, DL, at the age of 75. During his illness, he was able to benefit from care at the hospice he helped to establish nearly 30 years before. “It was my privilege to know Jack and I will always treasure and remember the kindness and support he offered me as the new Chief Executive Officer. We are proud to care for our community but especially for someone who played such a significant role in our hospice. I, my staff and volunteers were very sad to hear this news. Our thoughts are with Lyn and the family.”

Jack was born in Glasgow in 1941 but moved to Luton after leaving school, where he worked for the council until he set up his own decorating and glazier business in 1971. Over the years, as his business grew, Luton people have become well used to seeing his ‘J. Sapsworth’ vans in the town and around the area.

Jack’s heart was always beating in the interest of his adopted town. In July 1981, he became a member of Luton Rotary Club, where his impressive fundraising abilities soon came into their own and led to his election as Club President in 1992/1993. Jack’s involvement in charities was immense: he was not only central to the success of Keech Hospice Care but also local charities Signposts and NOAH Enterprises, to name but a few. In 2008, he received an MBE for his charitable work; he was also High Sheriff of Bedfordshire (2012/13) and a Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire. A devoted Hatters fan since his arrival in the town, he was a Vice President of the Club up until his death.

Jack’s involvement with Keech Hospice Care started in 1988, when – at a Rotary Club lunch – he heard about Dr Wink White’s plans to build a local hospice. “I got to know Jack right at the beginning, when we were still at the discussion stage of building a hospice in this area,” remembers Wink White. “He was a valuable member of the initial team as he had many connections with local commerce and industry. He quickly became active in fundraising for the original Pasque Hospice. He could make fundraising out of everything – bucket collections at football matches, dinners, golf days, boxing meetings, charity auctions, the original Keech ‘Walk on the Wildside’ and many more. It would be impossible to list everything he did, as the list would go on forever.”

Jack became a Trustee of the hospice and served on both the Fundraising and Appeals committees. He is credited with recruiting our first paid member of staff back in 1988. When the charity’s Selbourne Road warehouse burned down in 2002, it was Jack who found a new (and better) warehouse on Leagrave Road. He was Chairman of the charity’s Trading Company and oversaw its development from one Dunstable shop to nine outlets, before he stepped down in 2007. He continued to be involved in fundraising for Keech Hospice Care and his other local causes to the end; just two weeks before his death, his final fundraiser – the well-known Boxing Day event – raised £9,000 for local charities.

“Jack was a small man with huge generosity towards charities,” Dr Wink White says. “We all say, well done, Jack! And we all miss you. With very best wishes to Lyn, his wife, and all the family.”